January 2006

It is not too early to begin planning for the spring planting.

Draw a map of you garden and begin to design where you want to plant your favorite crops. Remember to change the location (rotate crops) especially for the peas, squash and the family of Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, choy, mustarts, etc.). I think all vegetable crops should be rotated to avoid pest problems and for nutrient requirements.

Peas can be planted in February. The rule of thumb is to plant peas on George Washington’s Birthday, which is Feb. 22nd. Peas do not need a lot of soil preparation. It is OK to add some compost, but not any manures. Peas don’t like chicken or steer manure. Peas can fix their own nitrogen with the help of the soil microorganisms. I have discovered that peas do much better if you add some the microorganism, called pea inoculant, when you plant. The inoculant comes as a black powder. When you plant the peas, put a teaspoon of the inoculant in a plastic bag, add the peas seeds and a tablespoon of water. This allows the peas to be coated by the inoculant. Then plant the peas in a long row. You will want to have the peas grow up a trellis, so pick a site where you can easily construct your trellis. I especially like string for peas to grow on; their little tendrils grab easily to string.
Peas don’t like hot weather and will die off in July usually. There will be more nitrogen in the soil after the peas are gone, so it would be good to follow the peas with greens or squash. In late May or June I will plant cucumbers or trailing squash, like zucchetta rampacante or tromboncino, right next to the peas and then train those vines up that trellis. Because I have such a small space for vegetables, I generally have something planted and ready to take the space vacated by any crop that gets harvested in the summer.

If you are anxious to get more crops growing, it would be OK to plant parsley seeds in February. These will like more of a rich compost or manure, since it is a leafy green and always likes the extra nitrogen. Parsley seeds like to have several weeks of cold before they sprout. If you wait and plant parsley later in the spring, you may want to put the seeds in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few weeks, so they get that cold period. Be patient with parsley seed, it takes 3-4 weeks to germinate. But what a great vegetable it is. Parsley is very high in vitamins and a natural breath freshener too. It is wonderful to always have a patch of parsley for salads and garnishes. It last 12 to 15 months in a garden before it goes to seed. Save those parsley seeds and toss them in a new spot in your garden for a continuous crop. As long as parsley isn’t covered by snow, like it was last week, it can be a fresh winter treat in any green salad.

The days are getting longer and we’ll discuss more about getting ready to plant your food garden next month. For specific questions or concerns, feel free to email me.

Spring has finally arrived so here are tips to help you increase production in your food garden.
First of all we will discuss when to plant which crops. We divide the season into early spring planting (cool season), starting mid to late March, and then late spring planting (warm season), which begins about May 15th.

Here are the cool season common crops. Plant them now or even weekly until May.

Peas (snow, snap or shelling types), parsley, lettuces, arugula, broccoli, choys, kohlrabi, spinach, carrots, beets, turnips, mustard greens, cilantro.

Onions (purchase sets or a bundle of small onion starts. These are a quick way to get some big onions by July. Onions stop growing when the day length shortens in July.)

For the lettuce, kohlrabi, carrots, beets, broccoli, you can continue planting them weekly till June. It would generally work to plant these cool season crops again in mid August if they are somewhat shaded and you water them well. They will produce in September and October or winter over to give you an early spring harvest. This stretches your gardening to the year round harvesting, which we are fortunate to have in the Pacific Northwest.

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